The first time I saw RENT was 20 years ago in Toronto. I was just coming into my own as being a theater kid, and I was immediately obsessed with the show. Sure I came from a small town in Upstate NY, but I saw myself and my friends on that stage. They looked like us, acted like us and while their problems were somewhat out of my sphere, I still related in a way that was unprecedented for me. Immediately RENT was my show. I saw it on Broadway shortly after and since then I've seen it more times then I can count.
Some of my best theater related memories revolve around RENT. In the summer of 2001 I went on my first Broadway audition with my local theater friends- it was for RENT. We did a show in Syracuse, flew to NYC and auditioned at the Knitting Factory and flew home and did another show. I sang Amazing Grace and I knew there was no chance in hell I was getting cast, which meant that it was just a fun experience. It was awesome.
It was also around that time that RENT came through Syracuse for the first time as a touring company and I was doing Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Civic Center so we shared a back stage area. The cast of RENT was amazing to us, coming to see our show, teaching us some of the choreography and hanging out backstage with us. I'm sure they remembered what it was like to be in local theater and they treated us like we were equals- even though I was completely starstruck by some of them- especially Jeremy Kushnier who was playing Roger.
You know when you see a show and your first cast is always the cast you compare every one else to? The Toronto cast was that for me and Jeremy Kushnier was Roger in that show. So to see him take over my dressing room for a few days was surreal at best. At one point I remember running from the stage back to our dressing room and he was sitting in his with the door open playing the guitar. 14 year old me probably fangirled a little too hard about that, but it was a small, weird moment that stuck with me from some reason.
Not that long ago my friend and I went to see Adam and Anthony when they came on tour to Syracuse University. Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp were in the original Broadway cast of RENT, playing Roger and Mark respectively. They sang some songs from RENT and some other music and also told a lot of stories about what it was like to be in RENT and other shows they had been in. It was an amazing show.
I saw RENT again last night here in Syracuse and I hear from other people that it's different to watch it as an adult, because you've lived more, you relate more, you feel more. I get that- some songs resonate more now- when Collins sang "Well, I'm thwarted by a metaphysical puzzle, and I'm sick of grading papers that I know, I'm shouting in my sleep I need a muzzle, and all this misery pays no salary, so..." my co-worker and I looked at each other and just went "accurate". Hearing that song as a teacher working in a really hard district really hit home in a way it hasn't in the past. Still, for the most part I watch RENT and it feels the same. I still get sucked right into their lives and even though I know how it all ends, I still am invested in how it all works out. I still see myself on that stage- I still want to be Mimi and I would still love to have friends like that and I still cry (like ugly cry) through most of Act II, only now I start sniffling earlier because I know what's about the happen.
same feelings I had the first time I saw the show. The music and the story gets under your skin and sticks with you. I can't wait to go see it again.
Want to see the show? RENT Tour Information
Interesting Article: 20 Years Later, RENT Case Remember Auditions, Memories and Mishaps
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